Matthew Henson, polar explorer.
Click on image for full size
Photo by Robert Peary, 1908.

Matthew Henson - Polar Explorer

Matthew Henson was an explorer around 1900. He explored the Arctic around the North Pole. In 1909, a group led by the famous American explorer Robert E. Peary tried to make it to the North Pole. Matt Henson was in that group.

Matt Henson spent nearly 20 years exploring the Arctic with Peary. He learned a lot about surviving in the cold from the Inuit people who live there. Henson (an African-American) learned the Inuit language and became very good at driving dog sleds. Peary once said that Henson "was more of an Eskimo than some of them".

Matthew Alexander Henson was born near Washington, D.C. on August 6, 1866. He became an orphan at the age of 11. Young Matt found a job as a cabin boy on a ship in Baltimore. The captain of that ship taught him how to read and write.

Matt Henson met Robert Peary in 1887. He went on many journeys with Peary. In 1909, Peary led a group that tried to make it to the North Pole. Henson and four Inuit men were also in that group. Peary claimed the group made it to the Pole, but some historians aren't sure whether he really did or not.

In 1912 Henson wrote a book about his explorations titled "A Negro Explorer at the North Pole". Later, in 1947, he worked with author Bradley Robinson on another book. That book, called "Dark Companion", was Henson's biography. Matt Henson died on March 9, 1955.

The National Geographic Society awarded Matt Henson a medal for exploration and discovery. A middle school in Maryland (near the place where Matt was born) is named after Henson. So is a United States Navy ship that studies the oceans.

Last modified January 17, 2007 by Randy Russell.

You might also be interested in:

Ready, Set, SCIENCE!: Putting Research to Work in K-8 Science Classrooms

What types of instructional experiences help K-8 students learn science with understanding? What do science educators teachers, teacher leaders, science specialists, professional development staff, curriculum designers, school administrators need to know to create and support such experiences?...more

Florence Bascom

Florence Bascom, who lived from 1862 until 1945, was one of the most important geologists in the United States. She studied mineral crystals by looking at them very closely with a microscope. She also...more

Niels Bohr

Niels Bohr was a Danish physicist who lived between 1885-1962. He studied the structure of atoms and developed a new theory about how the electrons in an atom were arranged. After helping build the first...more

Marie Curie

Marie Curie was a physicist and chemist who lived between 1867-1934. She studied radioactivity and the effects of x-rays. She was born Maria Skłodowska in Warsaw, Poland. Women could not study then...more

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein was a German physicist who lived between 1879-1955. He is probably the most well-known scientist in recent history. Have you heard of Einstein's famous theory? It is called the theory...more

Robert Goddard

Robert Goddard was an American physicist who lived between 1882-1945. He studied rockets and showed how they could be used to travel into outer space and to the Moon. Goddard experimented with different...more

Werner Heisenberg

Werner Heisenberg was a German physicist who lived between 1901-1976. Heisenberg is most famous for his "uncertainty principle", which explains the impossibility of knowing exactly where something is...more

Edwin Hubble

Edwin Hubble was an American astronomer who lived between 1889-1953. He spent a lot of time looking at groups of stars and planets, called galaxies, and trying to explain their motion. He found that all...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA